The Ethicurean, a kitchen garden restaurant just outside Bristol, was founded in 2010 by four friends and passionate food enthusiasts - brothers and self-taught chefs Matthew and Ian Pennington with Paula Zarate and Jack Adair-Bevan. Housed within the walled garden of a hillside Georgian estate and overlooking the Mendip Hills, The Ethicurean was awarded Best Ethical Restaurant in the Observer Food Monthly Awards in 2011 and a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand earlier this year. The Ethicurean Cookbook (Ebury Press), telling the story of a year in their Somerset kitchen, is out now. We caught up with Matthew, Ian, Paula and Jack to find out more about The Ethicurean's sustainable and seasonal values, their journey so far, and what makes a good pudding...
From farmers’ markets to an award-winning restaurant and cookbook. Such a leap! Tell us about the journey…
Since The Ethicurean’s creation, we have been responsible for a series of eccentric events and pop-ups, from a Mexican yurt on the Brecon hillside to a BBQ from the back of an old ambulance on the Mongol Rally launch. We began as a market stall and made our famous cakes for The Canteen in Stokes Croft, Bristol. Over the years we worked with The Adventurists and Hendrick's Gin, catering for afternoon tea as well as private viewings for art galleries, food festivals and fairs. We worked in all weathers across the country but Somerset was our home.
What does The Ethicurean stand for?
The Ethicurean is founded on a sense of place. This is the idea of having a connection with the native land, its history and the community who grow food locally upon it. Our family team seek to discover harmonious pairings between the ingredients that surround the walled garden. We strive to look for alternatives to imported fresh produce and constantly look as close to our home for the best ingredients which are often foraged or shot a stones throw from our walls or grown within. Mark Cox is the gardener at Barley Wood. He is a one-man band with an incredible passion for heritage and heirloom vegetables. We are re-working and re-imagining the existing traditions of drink making. Our bar is alive with experimentation. There is a strong synergy between kitchen and bar. Sharing our knowledge of flavours and recipes, swapping our ingredients, expanding our drinks into our dishes and back into our drinks. Embracing the limitations of nature has, for us, spurred unbounding creativity.
Apple, pear or quince?
Apples! How could we not choose the fruit that makes up the second half of our business? We have two orchards here at Barley Wood with over 70 varieties of apple.
How did you come across the Victorian walled garden and glasshouses that now form The Ethicurean?
We have always been fascinated by the enormous range of apple varieties in Britain and the breadth of flavours that they possess. An apple juice producer friend of ours told us about a cider barn in a walled garden that was up for rent. It also turned out that there was a cafe available too...
Autumn, Winter, Summer, Spring. Your favourite?
Each of the seasons has its perks but Autumn has to the winner for us. This is when the landscape transforms into a leaf sea of reds and browns. We are out in bosky woodland hunting mushrooms and Mark is bringing us glut after glut of his produce from the garden.
Which ingredients do you most enjoy growing and cooking with?
Mark's vegetables, fallow deer, goat, and fish from our friend Dylan Bean.
Your pudding of preference?
Our Milk, Stout and Chocolate pudding. It is stupendously good.
A sense of community seems to lie at the heart of The Ethicurean. How have you gone about creating this?
We organise events throughout the year that celebrate the folklore of our area, they are community events for our village and for our customers that are The Ethicurean community. Last month, The Ethicurean held an event to mark the Summer Solstice – part feast, part folk celebration.
Is re-imagining local rituals, histories and traditions a key part of your philosophy?
It certainly is. Our Solstice is about sharing food with friends and reinventing Somerset rituals. It is also one serious knees up.
Ginger beer or a gin and tonic?
How about muddled rhubarb, bitters, gin, elderflower cordial and ginger beer. This in one of our cocktails and it is called Rheum with a view.
A perfect Somerset summer’s day…
Bursting colour and light, the hum of bees and four friends.
Purchase a copy of The Ethicurean Cookbook here.